Crater Santiaguito: an Xtreme expedition

I go to Xela in the early afternoon and spent an hour trying to find my hostel. I asked peoploe where it was but they either didn’t know or sent me the wrong way. I finally came across a guy who revealed the secret location. Apparently, the street continued further down and to the right. Who knew it wasn’t a straight line as most normal streets are!

I settled in, got a delicious, cheap lunch at the market, did some laundry (another story there) and went around the tour operators in an attempt to sort out my trips for the following days. Unfortunately, they didn’t have anything as there were hardly any tourists around.

Dissapointed, I went back to the hostel where I bumped into these two Israeli brothers (Aviad and Elad) and we started talking about the two hikes I wanted to do. Soon a third guy (Aussie) joined the conversation and we had a local travel agency sent one of their guides to tell us more about the hikes. We talked, discussed, thought, got other people’s oppinions and finally decided we were going to do the ‘firey’ one first thing in the morning.

The Aussie guy (Aaron) wasn’t too keen on the hike and kept moaning about everything. I thought: ‘Do I wanna be in a group with this guy?’ He later surprised us all. He aced the whole trip and finished 30min ahead of us all.

Later that night we did some food/water shopping, got our gear ready, had a few drinks and went to bed (at least I did) nice and early as we had to get up and 4am and leave at 5am.

At dawn we all went downstairs, ready (or not) for our adventure. We got driven to a spot out of town where we got our food, sleeping bags and matresses. We walked uphill for a bit, then climbed a steeper hill, had a short break and continued on an easy path until El Mirador. We had our breakfast and the first glimpse of El Santiaguito. Don’t let the cutesey name deceive you – it is a mighty volcano, one of the 10 most dangerous in the world. Soon, after we got there it errupted. It made a noise that was like an airplane taking off, there was smoke but lava couldn’t be seen during the day. As soon as we were finished eating, our amazing guide Angel rushed us further down. We couldn’t waste any time. Now this is where it gets interesting!

We spent the next couple of hours going through a very narrow jungle passage. All downhill and slippery. We all fell down at least three times. I quite enjoyed that bit as I had no trouble going through the narrow bits and the vegetation. The guys did struggle though as they were all twice my size and carried packs much bigger than mine.

We Stopped for a short break and some snacks before we continued down a rock river. This is what killed our legs. We spent 2-3h going downhill trying to keep our balance on the slippery rocks. We did eventually make it to the bottom where things didn’t get any easier. It was time to climb the actual crater and get to the first camping (and our lunch) spot.

We went through sharp, cutting-through-skin, clothes and shoes volcanic rocks and skippery moss with zero grip. By this time, Elad was having a really hard time. His body wasn’t responding and his eyes were bloodshed. After a talk (argument) with his brother we carried on, We had to make it to the camping spot. We were all so happy to get there. We finally got a chance to rest and eat.

After a discussion we decided to camp there instead of the final camping spot (a 100m away from the crater). I was dissapointed but had to stick with the group. I got assured that we could see the crater from where we were and we wouldn’t be able to see it even from the top if there were clouds. And clouds there were! At times we couldn’t see further than a few centimeters away, let alone a crater!

We had lunch, set up camp, talked, relaxed, made the most of it and the beautiful location. After dinner we all went to sleep. All five of us slept together in the tent. Oh, so cozy it was!

I was prepared for the cold but it was anything but cold in that tent. Aviad stripped to his boxers, Elad snorred, Aaron compained about not having space to put his arms, Angel played with his phone and I laughed at the rediculous situation. After a while we all fell silent, pretending to have fallen asleep. The silence was broken by Angel saying how stupid the situation was and we all burst laughing. The guys thought I had broken down and was crying. You should have seen Aaron’s face!

At 3.30am we all got up and Angel, Aaron, Aviad and myselfwent up to the crater. Elad stayed behind and packed everything for our return. We walked in the dark, torches in hand, aided by the full moon. We passed through two more camping spots before we reached our final destination. The scenery resembled the surface of the moon. It was unique. Later I thought this was my favourite part of the trip. I walked thinking how surreal everything was, how unreal.

After climbing the last vertical bit we sat at the top right in front of the crater and waited for it to errupt. We enjoyed the valley beneath us, a few rock slides and greeted the sunrise. At last El Santiaguito errupted! We had made it!

We then left our names on the rocks and made our way down. We wondered how we could have made it up there with all the packs. It was dangerous enough as it was! We walked downhill towards camp and that’s when I realised how sore my legs were and that they didn’t support me anymore. I slowly walked down, wondering whether the next step would support me or I’d lose balance and fall down.

We made it to camo, had breakfast and headed back to town. Elad went first and we follo0wed 30min later. We soon caught up with him but then me and him stayed behind, slowly making our way down. We were looking forward to going up the stone river and taking the pressure off of our upper legs.

We had lunch at the top of the river and then dived into the jungle bit again. The guys hated it, Aaron compained and him and Aviad got stung by a bee. We still listened about the bee three days later.

The final supposedly easy bit was hell for all of us as it was all downhill and we were all sore. Every step was accompanied by a scream, a moan, or both.

At last we reached town about 4pm. All of us dreamed of a hot shower, a good meal, and a drink. All that followed later that night while we told stories and laughed about the last two days.



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